Is the California Dream Finished?

For all the persistent rhetoric from California’s leaders about this state being on the cutting edge of social and racial justice, the reality on the ground is far grimmer.

Our new report on the state of California’s middle class shows a lurch toward a society in which power and money are increasingly concentrated and where upward mobility is constrained, amid shocking levels of poverty. Most of this data doesn’t even account for the recent effect of the coronavirus outbreak, which has pushed the state’s unemployment rate to 15.5%, higher than the nationwide rate of 14.7%. Read more

Urban Blues

On the surface, progressive “Blue America” has never appeared stronger. President Donald Trump’s leadership failures exposed by the pandemic and the recent disorders, is sinking him in the polls. His rival, Joe Biden, seems likely to concede his traditionally moderate stances to placate the Democrats’ youthful activist and identitarian wings. Radical “transformation” of the United States seems to some just months away.

Yet even as their political power waxes, the woke progressives are engaged in a process of blue-icide, undermining their own urban base of disadvantaged citizens and their own credibility. Such self-destructive tendencies existed even before COVID-19 and the George Floyd upheavals, in the form of crushingly high taxes, regulatory burdens, and dysfunctional schools. The failures of Trump may help progressives in 2020, but their emerging policy agenda seems destined to benefit the red states, conservatives, and, sadly, the far right, later in this decade. Read more

How the Virus is Pushing America Toward a Better Future

The peak globalization bubble has finally burst and America has a chance to reinvent itself and realign how things work here with the best parts of our national identity.

Pessimism is the mood of the day, with 80 percent of Americans saying the country is generally out of control. Even before civil unrest and pestilence, most Americans believed our country was in decline, Pew reported, with a shrinking middle class, increased indebtedness and growing polarization.

It’s a dark hour, but the United States has a way of coming back, after struggling with itself, stronger than ever. As it did in World War II and the Cold War, America retains enormous sokojikara, or “reserve power,” as Japan political scientist Fuji Kamiya described it decades ago. Read more

Rural-Urban Migration and Class Structure in China With Li Sun

In episode 3 of Feudal Future podcast, Joel Kotkin & Marshall Toplansky interview guest Li Sun about her research on China’s urbanization and globalization.

The Rebellion of America’s New Underclass

Like so many before them, our recent disorders have been rooted in issues of race. But in the longer run, the underlying causes of our growing civic breakdown go beyond the brutal police killing of George Floyd. Particularly in our core cities, our dysfunction is a result of our increasingly large, and increasingly multi-racial, class of neo-serfs.

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From tragedy to opportunity: We could live better when today’s mayhem ends

For most people in this locked-down, riot-scarred world, the future beckons unpleasantly. There is a growing sense that, economically, the 2020s may look more like the 1930s than some halcyon post-industrial future. “Dark days ahead,” suggests The Week. “This is what the end of the end of history looks like.”

Yet, beyond the depressing statistics, the deserted malls, the looted or abandoned Main Streets, lies the potential to use the pandemic to create the impetus for better, more sustainable and family-centric communities. This is not just some return — imagined from the security of the high punditry — to a “plainer,” more noble past but actual, meaningful improvements in our daily lives, made largely possible by technology. Read more

Pandemics and Pandemonium

Minneapolis and urban centers across America are burning, most directly in response to the brutal killing of a black man by a white Minnesota police officer. But the rage ignited by the death of George Floyd is symptomatic of a profound sense of alienation that has been building for years among millions of poor, working class urbanites. The already diminished prospects facing such people have only been worsened by the unforeseen onslaught of the COVID-19 pandemic and the policies devised to combat it. Read more

Blue City Lockdowns Obscure COVID’s Root Causes

It will be months, likely years, before we understand how COVID-19 has reshaped our communities. Yet there is enough data, based on just the last three months, to get some notion of what areas and populations are most vulnerable.

The patterns are in many ways fairly clear. Media outlets, particularly those based in New York, seem to feel that the pain of the urban centers will be shared universally. The “science” as generally endorsed by our ruling Clerisy  dictates that we impose strong controls which, though perhaps necessary in New York and other places, have been disastrous in marginally unaffected rural and suburban areas.

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The New Geography of America, Post-Coronavirus

When there is a general change in conditions, it is as if the entire creation had changed, and the whole world altered
Ibn Khaldun, 14th Century Arab historian

For a generation, a procession of pundits, public relations aces and speculators have promoted the notion that our future lay in dense — and politically deep-blue — urban centers, largely on the coasts. Just a decade ago, in the midst of the financial crisis,  suburbia’s future seemed perilous Read more

The Coronavirus Means Millennials Are More Screwed Than Ever

In the nearly eight years since I first described millennials as “the screwed generation,” things have only worsened for those born between 1982 and 2000—and the coronavirus is now accelerating that slide.

In the midst of a pandemic, millennials are twice as likely to be uninsured as Boomers (PDF). Despite their superior educational credentials, millennials on average earn wages that are 20 percent less than what Baby Boomers made at the same age. Millennials are far less likely to own homes than Boomers were, and those millennials with homes are far more likely to have rich parents.

Seniors may suffer a much higher risk from the virus, but, from an economic point of view, it’s the millennials getting screwed the most. In a new report, Data for Progress found that a staggering 52 percent of people under the age of 45 have lost a job, been put on leave, or had their hours reduced due to the pandemic, compared with 26 percent of people over the age of 45.

Some recent research suggests that the pandemic may impact this generation in terms of such things as mental and physical health, leading to shortened lifespans. Before the pandemic, about 8 percent of American teens (members of Generation Z) reported trying to kill themselves each year and about 70 percent suffered from loneliness. In 2020, these numbers will likely be higher, suggests an excellent analysis in The Atlantic. The young generations are already more likely to report poor mental health, per the American Psychological Association, and suicides among people ages 10-24 soared 56 percent from 2007 to 2017.

This reflects the pessimism felt by millennials, both here and globally, about their futures, with most not expecting to do better than their parents. Their dismal prospects are reflected in the lowest marriage rates in history and loathness to start families. Battered now by pestilence and its aftermath, they could well become what one conservative writer referred to as a “resentful generation.”

Particularly vulnerable are the two-thirds of Americans between 25 and 32 who lack a four-year college degree. In the past, these workers would have been employed in factories or worked in a small businesses, or even started one. You do not need a PhD to operate a donut shop, a gym or a hair salon.

But now factory work has declined as companies have shifted their production to China and other parts of the developing world. The Main Street option was fading even before the COVID lockdown, as evidenced in falling rates of business formation, particularly among the young. The share of GDP represented by small firms has dropped from 50 to 45 percent since the 1990s. The share of young firms in all industries has fallen in the last 40 years. Increasingly more industries have become dominated by large, superstar firms  with access to Wall Street capital.

But even educated youth now suffer consistently lower wages, notes Pew, than their counterparts from previous generations. Many young people, including some college graduates, are employed in low-wage industries such as hospitality, retail and restaurants, fields now suffering the largest share of the job losses. Even those still working often have little ability to control working conditions, terms of employment, or gain guarantees for health coverage.

Read the rest of this piece at Daily Beast.


Joel Kotkin is the author of the just-released book The Coming of Neo-Feudalism: A Warning to the Global Middle Class. He is the Presidential Fellow in Urban Futures at Chapman University and Executive Director for Urban Reform Institute — formerly the Center for Opportunity Urbanism. Learn more at joelkotkin.com and follow him on Twitter @joelkotkin